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A strangely selective conscience

There is an article on the Guardian site called Throw a pebble at Goliath: don’t buy Israeli produce, by Yvonne Roberts, in which she urges people to boycott Israel because of its human rights record.

Now I know nothing about Yvonne Robert and have never even heard of her before, but I assume she also an avid campaigner for people to boycott products from Cuba, Burma, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China (good luck doing that), Iran, Syria, Belorus, Zimbabwe, North Korea (assuming they actually produce any products) etc. etc. etc… after all, if she is such a tireless campaigner for human rights, surely she could not possibly feel it was alright for people to trade with all those places, given the state of human rights in those places. Right?

Anyone want to take any bets on this?

47 comments to A strangely selective conscience

  • Kit

    Perry, consider efficient resource allocation.

    Israels’s the most open society on your list, therefore the most amenable to change.

  • Midwesterner

    but I assume she also an avid campaigner for people to boycott products from Cuba, Burma, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China (good luck doing that), Iran, Syria, Belorus, Zimbabwe, North Korea (assuming they actually produce any products) etc. etc. etc…, Right?

    Anyone want to take any bets on this?

    If that’s your assumption, your on! When do I collect? Err… what do I collect?

  • Midwesterner

    More seriously, I have long since decided to quit giving the benefit of the doubt to people who take stands like this one. Unlike people who choose to not get involved when they see someone being attacked, these people are joining in the attack. These people are violent and are, by making public statements condemning one case, making value statements about all of them. Once they take any public stance on human rights, they are declaring the ones they don’t oppose to be lesser (or not even) evils. For that reason, this person is evil. She needs to hear that.

    Did this make any sense?

  • Julian Taylor

    Ms Roberts is undoubtedly of the same ilk that was totally anti-apartheid, unless it meant that she couldn’t have a diamond ring set in gold. I would imagine that her ‘no Israeli produce in my household’ stops at around Jaffa oranges/grapefruit or certain types of avocado.

    Hundreds of Israeli political prisoners are not rotting in Palestinian jails.

    Unfortunately Palestinians are not generally predisposed to jailing Israelis, they tend to deal with their prisoners (innocent especially) in a more direct manner, of which I am sure Ms Roberts is quite aware but omits to mention. Oh, and just in case Ms Roberts needs to see what Muslim “law” really is like may I refer her to this (Link) (VERY strong stomach required – you have been warned).

  • J

    Once they take any public stance on human rights, they are declaring the ones they don’t oppose to be lesser (or not even) evils.

    I’m not sure that’s fair. She obviously has a special interest in the area, since she used to work there, so she’s chosen this field. It helps that it’s a very fashionable example of human rights abuse, and that it serves the dual purpose of displaying her (doubtless) right-on proto-socialist credentials.

    My friends who once lived in Zimbabwe might choose to highlight the regime there, but that doesn’t mean they are declaring the problems in Darfur, Burma, or DR Congo to be less important.

    Its got more to do with attention seeking. Criticise the Israelis and certain publications will print you. Criticise the Chinese and far fewer will. Don’t want to go upsetting our bid new market now do we?

  • Midwesterner

    J, I wondered about that after I hit the ‘Post’ key. Obviously, someone is entitled to express particular concern about their homeland. However, her question/statement is “the only major change since the 1970s, when I regularly reported from the region, is of a profound deterioration in all aspects of life for ordinary Palestinians”.

    To my knowledge, there are sweeping changes in that region. Since the Palastinians are inextricably linked with the other Muslim states in the immediate vicinity, she is denying the rise of Jihad, of sharia, and of a spectacular rise in suicide terrorism. “the only major change … [in] the region” is a sweeping statement. I think it is okay to treat it as one.

  • Midwesterner

    Furthermore, she set the scope as being “those who fight for peace in the Middle East”. To say the Middle East is unchanged except for the deterioration in the life of the Palastinians is an indefensible statement.

  • I just note that Nobel prizewinner Steven Weinberg is boycotting a confernce in London. I think the best answer for this is for Jews to boycott the UK,in particular Jewish scientists should refuse to work with British universities until the atmosphere has changed.

  • I just note that Nobel prizewinner Steven Weinberg is boycotting a confernce in London. I think the best answer for this is for Jews to boycott the UK,in particular Jewish scientists should refuse to work with British universities until the atmosphere has changed.

  • RAB

    A boycott is neither self-indulgent gesture politics nor an indicator of powerlessness, as Hirsh suggests. It is an international protest against the way in which Israel behaves on a daily basis in an area that will, in all probability, never see peace.

    If, in your humble opinion madam, the area will never see peace, That open free minded attitude we know and love the left so well for!
    What on earth are you bothering about???
    Let them fight it out!!!

  • Dusty

    I don’t recollect ever hearing of her either, but the David Higham Assoc. link (5th down) when you google her indicates she’s been on the seen for a while and across of range of papers and television not to mention having done some books, award-winning, no less. A previous link notes some 60 articles with 20 or so in the Guardian in the last year.

    Looks to be more of a socialist commentator which is why she’s gravitated to the Guardian. I’d be curious to ask her, though if she’s got boycott opinon columns on the others in the works or if she just like to turn a blind eye to their travesties because she considers them her friends.

    Anyway, I’ll take your bet, too — $5 and I’ll give you 2 to 1 odds. Still on?

    BTW, aren’t you too old to go assuming things like that anymore? :)

  • Dusty

    Gee, did I write “socialist”? I really, really meant socialite.

  • Everybody knows perfectly well what the actual issue here is.

    Cuba, Burma, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, China…..Iran, Syria, Belorus, Zimbabwe, North Korea

    The day when those regimes become predominantly Jewish is the day that these people will start criticizing them, regardless of whether their human-rights records get better or worse.

  • Bogdan of Australia

    No, this female of a COMMUNIST RAT will NOT develop any comassion for the unaccountable victims of regimes of a TOTALITARIAN COLLECTIVISM. For individuals like her, suffering of a Palestinian that is usually the result of the horrendous Palestinian SELF-RAPE, is a “tragedy”, while the deaths of more than HUNDRED MILLION of victims of Communism, and futher millions of above mentioned regimes’, is just “statistics”. After all, she’s got a good teacher to teach her that rule; JOSIF DZHUGASHWILLI STALIN himself. THose were his own words…

  • Roberts has all the moral sensitivity of a rhesus monkey.

  • Jacob

    From the Guardia article:

    For a population of 3.8 million [Palestinians], there are 15 psychiatrists and disastrously too few nurses, psychologists and support staff.

    Who is to blame ? Why, of course, the Jews (Israelis).
    But maybe she is on to something – the Palestinians need some psychiatric help to get over their suicide-bombing instincts.

    Or this

    20% of the population are prisoners and ex-prisoners, many suffering the psychiatric after-effects of isolation,

    Poor souls, these human rights respecting terrorists, suffering the terrible “after-effects of isolation”….

    She fails to mention that the Palestinians enjoyed the highest level of economic wellbeing, and human rights respect – compared to other Arab countries, until they started their suicidal terror campaign, which is the direct cause of all their (too real) suffering in the last years.
    Even so they are much better off than many of their cousins in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, etc.

  • Kit

    Midwesterner:

    Once they take any public stance on human rights, they are declaring the ones they don’t oppose to be lesser (or not even) evils. For that reason, this person is evil. She needs to hear that.

    MW, Polly Toynbee made the same argument, denouncing complaints against ID cards whilst graver human rights abuse occurs in Zimbabwe.

    The argument fails because it ignores the division of labor.

    Notice that Perry doesn’t use this post as an occasion to attack Israel’s welfare/regulatory “SELF-RAPE” (as Bogdan of Australia colorfully puts it above). Doesn’t he care? [/ irony]

    Myself, I’m conservative enough to disapprove of world-wide revolution. Fixing the easiest things one at a time is simply more likely to work than “Set Right the Planet!” radicalism. YMMV, of course.

    Ultimately, a person is evil for what they do, not for what they say or think (“declare,” as you put it). Intentions do not matter.

  • Jacob

    Then there is this:

    Hundreds of Israeli political prisoners are not rotting in Palestinian jails.

    You see, those (approx. 5000) Palestinians detained in Israeli jails for murder, terrorist acts, drive by shooting, suicide bombing attempts, etc. – they are mere “political prisoners”. Murdering Jews is a legitimate “political” act – according to Ms Roberts.

  • Giles

    The title has more truth than the article. Goliath was of course a Phillistine, whom the Palestinians claim to be descended from. And in this conflict the stories the same its still a giant against a little david.

    So if you want to throw a pebble at goliath write to your MEP asking why the EU (pop 300million) continues to bankroll a campeign to destroy israel (pop 5 mil).

  • Nick M

    Julian,
    Absolutely. I knew a lad who was very Green. He got on his high-horse about the French resumption of nuclear testing in the Pacific in the 90s. He boycotted French goods until he saw his flatmates scored a load of French wine…

    Kit,
    I think intentions matter a lot.

    ————-

    Personally, I think it’s partly about fashion. Fashions come and go. In the 80s I was baffled by the extent to which people I knew were virulently anti-South African. And, yes I do mean that, not just anti-apartheid, yet ignored completely the many obscenities commited by the “frontline states” against their own people. You see this about all kinds of things. It’s easier to raise money for breast cancer than colon cancer and it’s easier to conserve cute or magnificent animals than ugly or unimpressive ones…

    Of course, it’s also directly about fashion in that the keffiyeh has become a fashion accesory. I wonder how many of it’s wearer’s appreciate the true history and the items links to Nazism?

    But it’s also, as Robert’s headline suggests about siding with the perceived underdog regardless of the facts. The fact that Tel Aviv is a modern citiy and Gaza is a slum triggers an automatic knee-jerk reaction in lefties because they believe all wealth is the result of “oppressing” someone else.

    If the jihad “works” and the Israelis are driven into the sea I wonder what the European left’s reaction will be. Will they welcome the Jewish refuges because they’re underdogs again? Or are they just plain anti-semitic? I don’t know. All I do know is at the heart of the left’s loathing of Israel is a pathological, irrational hatred of the USA.

  • lupin

    So now most of my weekly shopping will be from Danish AND Israeli sources. I can live with that.

  • Oh, and just in case Ms Roberts needs to see what Muslim “law” really is like may I refer her to this (Link) (VERY strong stomach required – you have been warned).

    Actually, she wasn’t a Muslim but a Yazidi and was stoned to death for beeing seen with a muslim man. Which just goes to show that Islam doesn’t have a monopoly on religious barbarism.

  • Midwesterner

    Kit, you need to read her statements. She began by using a quote giving the scope of the discussion as “the Middle East”. Then, just to make sure we realize the scope of her expertise, she informs us that she reported from “the region”. She makes a clear statement that the only change since the seventies is the “profound deterioration in all aspects of life” of ordinary Palistinians.

    You totally ignore my statement that “Obviously, someone is entitled to express particular concern about their homeland.” Your Polly Toynbee makes carefully clear that she does NOT believe people are entitled to express particular concern about their homeland. Either that or your Polly believes that Zimbabwe is part of the UK homeland. Your equating of the two situations is either a strawman or really stupid.

    Your statement that Israel’s “welfare/regulatory” environment is a “SELF-RAPE” of greater evil than the daily body counts of Muslim on Muslim violence in the Mideast is preposterous. And yet that conclusion is all that can be drawn from your observation that Perry didn’t mention it.

    I am not sure why you are defending this Roberts person, but not surprisingly you are doing a very poor job. Her statements are indefensible. She is a professional communicator. She clearly meant what she said. It was her deliberate intention to leave the impression she did. What exactly is your intention?

  • I must confess that I have been engaged in a buy-cott of Israeli and Danish goods for some time now. As many of my samizdata articles attest, I am far from a reflexive supporter of everything the Israeli state does but the sheer cant and hypocrisy of its critics is simply too much to endure mutely.

  • lucklucky

    “the only major change since the 1970s, when I regularly reported from the region, is of a profound deterioration in all aspects of life for ordinary Palestinians”

    She is ignorant or a liar pure and simple.

    In 70 there were no Universities in Palestine now there are 3

    In 70 seldom there were Water service to talk about, now most palestinians have Water.

    In 70 the majority of Palestinians didnt had electricity
    now most have.

    In 1995 the Palestinians had more Per capita income than Jordanians and Egyptians.

    Then i could go in Hospitals…

    Of course she doesnt grasp that Palestinians deserve their hardship it’s like crying for the freedom of someone that robbed.

  • lucklucky

    Correction i was going from memory:

    Data 1993 GNP per capita:

    Palestine: $1450
    Jordan: $1120
    Egypt:$650

    I dont have comparative numbers for 1999 but at that time for Palestinians the GNP was $1777 ($1,915 West Bank $1,256 in the Gaza Strip)

    Note that Palestinians were badly hit economically after attacking Israelis many lost the chance to work in Israel.

  • I think Kit does not get my point. I am not saying that any attack on Israeli policies (I have made a few myself) must be accompanied by a denouncement of all matter of other evils… my point was that I very much doubt most of the Guardianistas who get in a lather about Israel would do the same about Cuba (for example) because they actually support tyranny in those places… hence my title “a strangely selective conscience”.

    It has nothing to do with a division of labour (we all have our pet causes) but rather my suspicion that there is a great deal less to the purported attachment to civil rights of people like this woman (i.e. it is simply an expression of a sectarian allegiance rather than a true moral position).

  • Paul Marks

    Israel is less statist than it used to be – thanks to the former Finance Minister and present leader of the opposition (no I am not going to try and spell the man’s name).

    In the first comment Kit claimed that Israel is more “amenable to change” than the other countries on the list that Perry gave.

    Actually the point is stronger that Kit knows – the other nations can not CHANGE into what the Guardian lady wants.

    You see, like most Gurdian types, the lady wants a totalitarian set up – and the other countries can not change into such a thing, because they already are totalitarian.

    Only when Israel is exterminated and a hellish “Palestine” (a name made up by the Emperor Hadrian supposedly in the memory of the ancient inhabitants of the coastal area – although some Arabs, who mostly came from Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have taken to calling themselves “Palestinians” in recent decades as a P.R. move) is set up in its place will the lady be satisfied.

    Well actually the lady (and her comrades) will NOT be satisfied. They will not be satisfied whilst there is a semi free land anywhere in the world.

    “No, No, No, we just want Gaza and the West Bank”.

    Well even over looking the fact that the “West Bank” de facto cuts Israel in two (as the most eastern bit of the “West Bank” is only a few miles from the sea) if anyone really thinks that the various Islamic (the Christian Arabs are largely gone now – and it was not the wicked Jews who got rid of them) groups will really settle for “just” this, there is a nice bridge of mine by the Tower of London that I would like to sell them.

  • You mean ot say you read the Grauniad? I read TorStar, but at least it contains some genuine news.
    Back in 1990 I went to old Jerusalem during the First Intifada.
    The hotel I stayed at had been a good, thriving and lively hostelry on the borders of East Jerusalem, on the Arab side of the open ground around Jaffa Gate.
    The floor was marble which was very cooling in the heat of the Summer(which was nevertheless tempered by a cool breeze coming off the hills-unlike Golan, where the Khamsin blasts off the Syrian desert and burns even in the shade).
    I had been there in ’84, but in 1990 things were different.
    There were a few weird ‘Arabist’ Americans staying there who had(thnaks to Queen Noor) crossed the Jordanian border at the Allenby Bridge a few days before.
    This time the guy at the desk asked for my UK passport and kept it for two days; there were a couple of men hanging casually under the trees, obviously Arab ‘border guards’ for the state in waiting.
    The intifada people looked middle class and complained when the nutty Israelis beat them with sticks.
    The day there was a general strike, the air was thick with tension so I went up to Jaffa Street markets to get a coffee.
    The Israelis were carrying on regardless like kids in any late-eighties town, while down the street the silence reigned.
    When I got back to the hotel(where I had a cavernous marble room to myself) the staff were congregating around the front desk and playing with ballbearings by the handful.
    I got my passport and lit out for Tel Aviv on the bus(air-con Mercedes, much to the surprise of the American tourists who had been conditioned to expect a third-world police state).
    In Tel Aviv I had a quick word with a local copper about the fact that these guys were in possession of ball-bearings which could easily be used to build shrapnel bombs, particularly as the Maccabee Games were about to be held in Jerusalem.
    He wasn’t bothered.
    “They’re not the IRA you know.”
    I guess that ten to fifteen years of statutory terrorism in the ‘new state’ free of Israel showed him, eh?

  • Midwesterner

    Kit, you said something regarding ‘intentions’ that to some extent I agree with.

    Ultimately, a person is evil for what they do, not for what they say or think (“declare,” as you put it). Intentions do not matter.

    While (genuine) intentions are useful indicators of what honest people are attempting and are receptive to, for the most part I agree with what I believe the spirit of your statement is. I utterly reject claiming ‘good intentions’ as an immunity for the consequences of anyone’s actions against another.

    What ‘blew my gasket’ and triggered my over hard response is that these people, these apologists and defenders, words ARE consequential. These people have taken over the information distribution system and turned it to pro-violence advocacy and apology while claiming to have the exact opposite intentions.

    In keeping with your words that I quoted, consistency says you must reject these people’s claimed intentions and look at the very real consequences of their words. Through lies and by distraction, these people are camoflaging and defending evil.

  • lucklucky

    The fact that is mainly Muslims that die in droves due to terrorism can be planted at door of this lady and those of her ilk. The History of last 30 years is that Media, political classes and foreign office beaurocrats in Europe and USA has been giving political power to many that go the terrorist route. They have been rewarded by meeting, recognition. How many times Arafat meet with a European Leader? compare how many times an Arab Human Rights defender meet with them.

  • I’ve always wondered why lefties hate Isreal so much. This is the only country in the world with large numbers of people living under a very pure Socialist system (in the kibbutzs), and doing it without mass murder. Surely they should be holding it up a model and saying “look, Socialism doesn’t always mean a 6 figure death toll!” rather than vilifying it?

  • lucklucky

    America…

    Politically rewarding terrorism:

    “Ghazi Hamad, spokesman of the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniya of Hamas, was the honored guest at a prestigious English literary festival at Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Invited to the event by the British Guardian newspaper, the Palestinian terrorist shared a platform with future and past British premiers, Chancellor Gordon Brown, who enters 10 Downing on June 27, John Major, the designer Vivienne Westwood and other glitterati. The Palestinian jihadi starred in Sky television’s Adam Bolton’s Sunday interview program. ”

    in DEBKA

    Hamas will continue their behaviour it gives nice rewardings….

  • Paul Marks

    lucklady this shocks even me.

    So Mr Brown and the rest of the “great and good” (including the “conservative” John Major) are trotting along to the Guardian newspaper tent at Hay and giving Hamas their love and kisses.

    I have friends in Hay for the book festival, I am glad I did not know this stuff about Hamas before.

    I would, most likely, have telephoned my friends with the news – and it would have spoilt the event for them.

    As for Brown, Major and the rest of the trash – well it proves that trash are trash.

    No doubt there were B.B.C. people there – even though friends of Hamas abducted a B.B.C. man in Gaza recently.

    As you say – terrorism pays.

  • A friend of mine recommends (for those in a position to buy) the fine products of Israeli Military Industries

    He has gone so far as to have their sword n’ gearwheel logo tattoed on his arm, which definitely shows committment to the company.

    (Apparantly in Europe their ammunition is marketed under the “Samson” brand, which is pretty funny once you think about it.)

  • Nick M

    John Sabotta,
    If that’s Samson as in “Samson Option” then as a European I am most decidedly not laughing my ass off.

  • Chris: I’ve always wondered why lefties hate Isreal so much. This is the only country in the world with large numbers of people living under a very pure Socialist system (in the kibbutzs), and doing it without mass murder. Surely they should be holding it up a model and saying “look, Socialism doesn’t always mean a 6 figure death toll!” rather than vilifying it?

    That’s easy: kibbutzim always existed on a purely voluntary basis, and although they were financially supported by the state for many years (no longer the case), they were never actually run or mandated by the state. What good is a communist enterprise, if one can leave it whenever one wishes?

  • Midwesterner

    You’re not European, Nick. You’re British. Europe is at the other end of the chunnel.

  • Alisa, I stayed at a Kibbutz or two in 1984.
    A lot of the people there were insane.
    And that included some of the volunteers.
    There was one great South African guy that I used to hang with; we were like heroes in a ‘buddy’ film, me the sensible partner to his Mel Gibson.
    One day we had the chef in from the Tel Aviv Hilton to help out at the kitchens; eventually I ended up at En Gedi.
    After work we’d all go down to the Roman Sulphur Baths and sit around in the heat talking politics.
    Wow.
    I traded my cigarette ration for chocolate.(hey, it was the 80s!)

  • Reid of America

    Yvonne Roberts and her comrades are moral degenerates.

  • A lot of the people there were insane.

    A lot of Israelis are insane:-)

  • Well, yes.
    But I wanted to be polite.

  • “Polite”? What’s that?:-)

  • It’s what you are when you are talking on Samizdata, as opposed to the cab of my van.;)

  • Paul Marks

    I am not sure about “insane” – perhaps “unhibited” would be a better word.

    My 88 year old Aunt just went on a trip to Israel. Normally a rather reserved lady (and not in the best of health), I have now seen photographs of her with automatic rifles and so on.

    Perhaps it is the climate.

  • Midwesterner

    My 88 year old Aunt … with automatic rifles and so on.

    That’s one cool Aunt you have, Paul. I had an aunt who rode motorcycles until her doctor made her stop because of osteoporosis.

  • Paul: “uninhibited” does not begin to describe it, and it’s not just the climate, either:-) Anyway, come and see for yourself!